30 March 2013

Bon Voyage!

If you thought something was wrong with your email because you didn’t receive this particular devotional for the last two weeks, and you have even checked my blog to see if you were somehow inadvertently removed from the mailing list, I’ve been on vacation. No, seriously I took some time off.  If you know me, just hearing I actually took time off surprises you more than the weekly devotional not being in your inbox.

I went on a cruise for 5 days. This was my second cruise. After my experience with the first, I said I would never go again.  But enough time passed for me to forget about some of the details of my first experience, and I booked a second cruise. This time, the cruise would not be just for me and my wife, but for the whole family.  If you are asking yourself why I went on a second cruise after having a bad experience, I can’t explain it. If time really didn’t heal pain and hurt, your wife would never have sex with you again after giving birth to your first child.

Now that I’ve been on my second cruise, I don’t want to go on a third.  It’s not the other people on the cruise, it’s really me.  I don’t like everyone I meet. I knew that before I went on vacation; it really isn’t new to me. It seemed to me that everyone around me complained about some level of the cruise from the music to the crew.

Sometimes at church I feel like I’m stuck on a cruise ship. There are people who are there for the music and only want to be there if the music they like gets played. There are people who are there only because they like the captain and crew. There are people who want to be served and want to make sure their needs are met. As long as everything is pleasant and comfortable, they will sail with them again into calm waters.

Like being on that cruise ship last week, I don’t like being around these Christians either. I’ve been around Christians that I just wanted to slap up side their heads and tell them to stop acting like a fool. I’m sure there’s plenty of Christians that feel the same way about me, and that’s okay.

If you spend much time at all with me, I will make you angry, offend you, be rude, say something you find inappropriate, or just make you blush. I know I do all these things, not intentionally, but I just do. Why? Because I’m real; because I’ve learned to be comfortable without my mask on.

Because getting to know the real man I am now is important in understanding that my sanctification is both complete (2 Corinthians 5:17) and is being completed (Philippians 3:12-14).

I find lots of Christian men walking around with guilt because they’re not perfect yet. They’re afraid to MAKE, MATURE, and MOBILIZE, thinking that they’re not holy enough yet. I think too often we as Christ followers have this notion of what a “good Christian” looks and acts like, and we learn to play the role (insert gag reflex here). Then, we convince ourselves that we are the role we play until the crisis comes (and it always does) and we’re forced to get real—and quick.

So stop acting…Jack Nicholson, you’re not, and what you’re doing is robbing other men in your life from seeing what it looks like to be an authentic follower of Jesus Christ. You may have a hard time trying to stop this acting and mask wearing because your degree is in Pharisee. Remember, Jesus hated the way the Pharisees acted.

I hate what He hates. If the troubles in our lives, our families, our country, in our world are ever going to be resolved, it will start with men like us fighting on our knees through God’s power, not by how well we can quote Scripture, our attendance at church, or even how good we are. We can change the world for the better by imitating Jesus…and not everyone liked Him either.

12 March 2013

Breaking Bread

I read a story that took place in 2001.  It was about a house located in Chicago.  The home was in disrepair; there were weeds everywhere.  It had obviously been abandoned.  The residence found its way onto the auction block due to back taxes.  The house was purchased, and, as the new owner sent a crew to clean it up, they discovered something horrific.  Inside the run-down home was a man who had been sitting in his reading chair, apparently dead of natural causes.  Crumpled next to him was a newspaper imprinted with the year 1997.  The man had been dead a long time, four years.  Nobody noticed; not a neighbor or relative, or even a friend.  How could no one have noticed?

A Pharisee asked Jesus what was the most important commandment of all.  For Pharisees, there were 1,613 commands.  Jesus narrowed down the 1,613 to an absolute focus, and replied:

“The most important is this, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and the greatest commandment.  And the second command is like it.’”

Jesus said you should “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

When you break it down to the main thought, it’s all about relationships.

In Acts 2, we see the New Testament church just being birthed.  Verse 42 says, “They (the new believers) devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread….”

Verse 46 goes on to say, “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes…”

Meeting out in the public in the temple courts is a lot like what we do in church now, and worshippers breaking bread in their homes was not just part of the Lord’s Supper.  The disciples met together very regularly, and fellowship was very important.  The meals in the New Testament were much like Thanksgiving meals where people gathered together early, enjoy several courses of food, and stay late. There was a relational aspect to these meals.  People were doing life together.  This was a high priority to them.

The Greek word that is translated as fellowship is ‘koinonia.’ It means to share, to participate in a common cause, to engage in social intercourse. It is doing life at such an intimate level with fellow believers that they become like family to you.  They become necessary for your spiritual and relational survival.

A relationship with Christ really means a Christian enjoying a personal relationship with Jesus.  A personal relationship with Jesus is essential because no one else can have a relationship with Jesus FOR you, plus, a relationship with Jesus was never intended to be private.  Too many times, well-meaning Christians say “I’ve got God in me and we are fine.  I don’t need a church.”

The disciples, followers of Jesus in the New Testament, weren’t thinking of a personal relationship, they were fully living out a shared relationship with Jesus.  The disciples enjoyed and experienced His power and His reality along with other Christ Followers.

Why doesn’t that kind of intimate relationships happen today?  Air conditioning.

Before the air conditioner, where did people hang out?  They would gather on the front porch.  With the air conditioner, people went inside.  Add the attached garage, garage door opener, gated neighborhoods, fenced in back yard, caller ID, and identifying ringtones.

We have created all of these ways to avoid people and avoid relationships, purposely or not.

In John 13:34, Jesus said, “Love one another.”

But wouldn’t you agree, in reality, much of the time, what we are doing instead of loving one another is avoiding one another?

A disciple of Jesus breaks bread.

03 March 2013

Go Fish

The game warden had a neighbor, who was on vacation and his neighbor went fishing every day.  The warden watched as each day passed and the neighbor came home always having his limit of fish and “then some.” After several days the warden asked how he was catching so many fish each day? His neighbor said “come with me tomorrow and I’ll show you.

The next day was calm and the lake was isolated enough that they were the only fishermen there. The warden baited his hook, threw it into the water and watched the bobber bob on the waves. Suddenly there was an explosion just a couple feet off the portside of the boat. In a few moments fish were floating to the surface and his neighbor was frantically scooping them in with a net.

He was about to ask his neighbor what happened, when he saw him light a piece of dynamite and throw it into the water… followed by another explosion.

“What do you think you’re doing?” the warden shouted.

“Fishing” the guy replied.

“But you can’t do that… that’s illegal!”

At this point, his neighbor lit another stick of dynamite threw into his lap and said: “you gonna talk, or you gonna fish?”

Luke 5:1-11 is about Jesus calling His first disciples.  Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, and there were crowds of people gathering around listening to Him teach the word of God.  It was the end of the day; the fishermen were cleaning their nets.  The Lake of Gennesaret was an important body of water.  It was about thirteen miles long and eight miles wide, and during the time of Jesus, there were nine townships that surrounded this body of water.  It was home to about 15,000 people.  Jesus wasn’t preaching in the synagogues, but, He actually went to where the people were.  Jesus got into the boat belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore.  Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and let the nets down for a catch.” Simon, the fisherman, looked at Jesus, the carpenter, as if to say “Are you crazy?  We’ve been out doing this all day long.  Fish aren’t biting.  We haven’t caught anything.”  That’s when Peter said one of the most amazing phrases you’ll find in the scripture. Peter said, “But because you say so, we will let down the nets.”  When they did, they caught so many fish that their nets couldn’t even contain them.  After Jesus had done the impossible, Simon Peter was totally overwhelmed and said, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”

When I think of the word Christian, I think of a belief system.  A Christian believes Jesus is the Son of God who died and rose on the third day. That is what I think of when I think of a Christian.

When I think of the word disciple, I envision a step up from a regimented belief system.  I think of something beyond cultural Christianity: just believing in Jesus.  I think of a disciple as one who believes so much in Him that their whole life’s pursuit is to become like Him. Not only are we to become like Him, but as a disciple, we are to do what He did.

Jesus, in verse 10, said to Peter, “Don’t be afraid.  From now on, you will you will catch men.”

If you are a disciple of Jesus, you will do what He did.  If you are a disciple, you will be here for the sick, those who are in need.  If you are a disciple, you will be here for the prostitutes and the lepers, the sinners, (oh, my)… the no good, the low down, the outcast.

But, a disciple also goes fishing.  A disciple fishes for men.  Another way to say it is a disciple makes disciples.  The very last thing that Jesus said to His disciples before He ascended to Heaven in Matthew 28 was, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded.”

A disciple makes disciples.

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